Grandparents in the pandemic: a lost year, but now some hope

PLYMOUTH, Mn.(AP) – No sleepovers with popcorn and Disney movies. No dance recitals or holiday pageants, let alone any Grandparents’ Day for visiting the kids’ classrooms.

No hugs.

The first 12 months of the pandemic  represent a lost year for many in the largest group of grandparents in U.S. history. Most of the nation’s some 70 million grandparents are in the fourth quarter of their lives, and the clock has kept running.

“Working with older adults, I’m seeing a lot of depression, a lot of increases in loneliness,” says Nick Nicholson, a nursing professor and researcher on aging at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. “It’s been really difficult … the anxiety, the despair, the social isolation. Over time, there are so many adverse effects. The sooner we expand the bubble, the better, so people can start healing together.”

The federal  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week offered some beginning steps forward for Year 2, saying fully vaccinated grandparents could visit in a single household with healthy children and grandchildren without masks or other special precautions.

Doris Rolark blew air kisses to her mask-wearing grandchildren and great-grandchildren when they dropped off presents on her 78th birthday last month. She resumed hugs last week after the CDC guidelines were announced.

“It was great. I’m getting excited to see the rest of them,” says the Middletown, Ohio, woman, who has three grandchildren and 16 great-grandkids. “I hope it’s going to be better now.”

Joe and Nancy Peters had one of their 11 grandchildren over to visit last week as they began “cautiously returning to normal,” he says. Both retired educators in their 70s, they were used to being heavily involved with the grandchildren, all living near them in suburban Cincinnati, before the pandemic and its safety restrictions hit.

It was especially tough losing time with the youngest.

“They’re 3, 4, and 5 years old and a whole year has gone,” Nancy Peters says. “They’ve changed a lot … and Amelia would say each day to her Mom, ‘I am going to have a sleepover at Grandma’s when coronavirus is over.’

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